Finally, the African Magic Igbo Channel was launched and for some weeks now, it has been running on Africa Magic, the continent’s leading provider of world class African entertainment. But a recent gathering, which hosted a galaxy of movie stars in Enugu State, was merely to celebrate the new channel and all that it portends. Writes Mary Ekah
“The industry has embraced it, the viewers obviously love it. It is another channel that tells a different side of the Nigeria story and helps, outsiders see Nigeria and Africa as a whole, from another point of view. It is not just about Nigeria but it is about Africa. So we have audiences all across Africa that are actually keen to this channel. So we are really excited.” Those were the exact words of the visibly excited Regional Director of M-Net (West), Mrs. Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, at the recent event to celebrate the birth of the Africa Magic Igbo Channel held in Enugu.
The launch could not have come at a better time and so the turn out was huge as a handful of Igbo sons and daughters in and outside the movie industry, mostly dressed in their native attires, turned out in a large number to witness the landmark event.
The event was the celebration of the Igbo culture and the role Igbo language movies played in founding the Nigerian film and television industry, which has grown to become the second biggest movie industry in the world. M-Net, owners of the Africa Magic channels, has therefore availed Africans with platforms to tell their stories from their own perspective.
The star studded event featured elegant performances by an Igbo traditional troupe and stellar performances from artistes including Chidinma, Phyno, and Flavour, who closed the event with a medley of his hit songs. A highlight of the evening was when the elegant stallion, Onyeka Onwenu, joined Chidinma on stage in a spontaneous, unforgettable performance.
Hosted by ace comedian and Nollywood actor, Okey Bakassi, the glamorous event, which held at The Dome, had in attendance leading players from the Nigerian film and television industry including many who were instrumental to the industry’s founding with early Igbo language content. Veteran entertainers like Chief Peter Edochie, Onyeka Owenu, Bob-Manuel Udokwu, Eucharia Anunobi, Kenneth Okonkwo, Clem Ohameze and Francis Duru were present at the event, which featured colourful displays of the Igbo culture.
Speaking at the event, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, said, “I think the time is now because we can say it has taken a while but people grow up at different paces. If you check the environment, I think this is probably the best time for this channel to actually come up. It allows us tell our story and the culture. It is not just about the language but it is a channel that tells all about Igbo. This is a platform and we are really excited at Africa Magic to have brought this channel at this time.”
Mba-Uzoukwu explained that Africa Magic is renowned for providing entertainment made for Africa by Africans. She said Africa Magic is renowned for telling the African story, and giving African entertainers a platform to show the world what they can do.
“We have demonstrated this with our channels, including the indigenous language channels which continue to promote the richness of Nigeria’s different cultures beyond the nation’s borders and we are continuing this trend with the Africa Magic Igbo channel”, she noted.
“People in Nigeria and across Africa remember ‘Living in Bondage’, ‘Nneka the Pretty Serpent’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and many other popular Igbo language movies which continue to be relevant today as they were many years ago. These movies not only set the trend for the modern film and TV industry, but their enduring legacy continues, and we can see this in the amazing Igbo language entertainment content being produced today”, she said.
Explaining how far reaching the new AfricaMagic Igbo channel is, the M-Net regional director said, “You know Africa Magic is watched in over 50 countries in Africa, so the Africa Magic Igbo channel goes everywhere the Africa Magic Channel goes. So it is a big opportunity for us to tell our stories the way we want to in yet another language, so we are really excited.”
She said that now that M-net has started the Africa Magic Igbo Channel after a long yearning for it, what stakeholders should be talking about now was what to make of it. “The Channel has been launched, so let’s look at it futuristically and let’s not look at it historically. The time is now and we are to make what we want of the channel”, she said.
On how M-net would sustain the content, Mba-Uzoukwu said, “There is a believe that when you build it, they would come. And when I met with a couple of stakeholders like a year ago; based on everything I heard, I understood there was a lot of passion there but someone needed to put a step forward for it to happen and that is what is happening now and actually, I can tell you that from the nature of the content we are receiving already – people who have never produced before have gone into production because of the passion they feel for the channel. So we expect to see the content improve and keep improving because that is all what it is about.”
She said, “I must stress that launching the channel is an investment in itself. You know that to launch a channel is not just to put up a channel, there is a lot of investment that goes into creating the channel, so now that we have created that channel, I think the onus is on us as Igbos, to actually begin to create contents.”
“What Africa Magic does will actual continue to be there because we do original productions and the best quality production. Therefore, it goes without saying that whether we do it today or tomorrow, that is not the issue, the issue is what we, the Igbos, are adding to it because even if you look at the other channels, even if it is the English channels, it is not only Africa Magic that is driving the content but the content is being produced and generated organically. That is what we want – organic growth for the Igbo Channel, not necessarily us, but we would always do our best. Nothing is going to change that.”
Mba-Uzoukwu revealed further that the Igbo movies would be 100 percent subtitled for other audience to follow, adding, “It is the culture and not the language and we also want our young ones now who are probably forgetting their language to also pick it up. So subtitling is a big part and we encourage suppliers to subtitle.
On the impact the Igbo channels is expected to have generally on the Nigeria movie industry, Mba-Uzoukwu said, “I think there is going to be an overall growth in the industry because now there is another angle of looking at it and there is another story we can tell. So I just think it is an overall growth for production, production providers, content creation and even actors and actresses. May be there is someone who speak only Igbo and yet he/she may be the most brilliant actor, so this is an opportunity for such people.”
Chief Pete Edochie, who opened the event with the traditional, symbolic breaking of kolanut, hailed the Africa Magic team for their tenacity in making sure the Africa Magic Igbo dream came to reality. Mr. Edochie, who spoke entirely in Igbo, was assisted by Kenneth Okonkwo in the opening prayers and urged Igbo filmmakers to take advantage of the new channel to produce rich and enduring Igbo content.
The Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said, “At MultiChoice, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of the development of the Nigerian film and television industry. For over 20 years, we have consistently invested in Nigeria’s creative industry. Furthermore, the Africa Magic channels which sit on our DStv and GOtv platforms provide Nigerian talent with the opportunity to showcase their works to the rest of the continent and indeed the world.”
Launched on April 2, 2015, Africa Magic Igbo is a 24-hour general entertainment channel featuring the best of Igbo language content. The channel features magazine shows, movies, drama series and sitcoms, all showcasing the best of the Igbo culture.